Story of the stats: Cougars survive Kansas State

Thanks, Jon. What was looking like a comfortable and potential blowout win for BYU turned into an all-time choke job in the making. What was a 16-point BYU lead with under six minutes in the game quickly dwindled down to just two with a minute left in the game. If it wasn’t for a clutch, one-handed catch, early shot clock, quintessential “no, no, no, no, no, no, YES” three-point dagger from Jaxson Robinson, I would be writing a pretty somber column right now.

Thankfully, the Cougars decided to not spoil Super Bowl weekend and escaped with a win. In a game that featured one of the spunkiest National Anthem’s of all-time, a kid attempting to down an entire Cougartail in one go, and a Joe Flacco sighting, we were also able to get some pretty cool hoops. Here are some of the stats.

3-0: BYU’s record this season against Elite 8 teams last year

Fun stat? Absolutely. Relevant? Not really. However, it is something to hang your hat on if you’re a passionate Cougar fan. The expectations for this team this season weren’t exactly optimistic, and they’ve already blown them out of the water. To sit and watch as the last eight teams battled it out last March and imagine that BYU would beat three of them is pretty nuts.

That being said, all of those teams are very different and it’s not at all fair to take the results of last year and try and pretend they mean something this year . . . Is something the haters would say. BYU to the Elite 8, you heard it here first.

7: Number of BYU turnovers

Alright, fine. I’ll be serious now. On top of posting their lowest number of turnovers in conference play this season, the Cougars also forced 16 Kansas State turnovers. It doesn’t take a genius to know that offense typically works better when you hold on to the ball, and BYU has gotten better nearly every week in conference play.

One of the biggest things that stood out in scouting reports for this team earlier this season was that they didn’t handle pressure well. Teams were able to rattle the Cougars and force careless turnovers when they got in their face and made them uncomfortable. BYU has certainly been able to shift that narrative, at least in turning the ball over. The next step is being able to run your offense or even punish defenses for being over-agressive. For now, the guards have taken much better care of the ball in a conference that prides itself on tough guard play.

32.0%: BYU’s three-point percentage

32.0% from three marks the Cougar’s worst three-point shooting effort in a win this season. The magic number for BYU this season has typically been around 39%. If they could shoot at that rate, they would win games. Saturday night wasn’t an impressive shooting display from either team, but the Cougars needed every single one to win.

It’s interesting to note that BYU’s attempts from three have been significantly down over the past couple weeks. A part of that is opposing teams making an effort to run them off the line, and another part is Pope deliberately changing up the scheme to get the ball inside a lot more often. You could argue that it’s been good or bad, but it is something to keep an eye on the next few weeks. BYU is a shooting team, and I’m fairly confident in saying that Saturday night’s shooting performance isn’t going to cut it very often, if ever again this season.

5-5: BYU’s Big 12 conference record

Look, being .500 doesn’t seem amazing in anything except batting averages and the American Heritage final, but for this conference, and for this team, it really is amazing. On this day last year, BYU was 6-7 in WCC conference play.

I’ve mentioned it frequently, but I can’t quite get over the turnaround this team has had from last year. The Cougars just beat a Kansas State team that made the Elite 8 last year, and no one is even remotely excited about it. If anything, we all feel like it was an ugly win with the way it ended. This time last year, we were trying to find the positives in a 92-80 loss to Pepperdine. Big difference.

The Cougar’s have two very winnable games this upcoming week that would put them in an immaculate position in the conference if they can take care of business. It seems that this team is still trying to find their offensive identity, balancing outside shooting with one-on-one post ups. They have eight more games to figure out what that is, and prepare for some postseason ball.

Chase is the sports editor for the Daily Universe. Follow him on X: @Chase_rogers0

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